UPDATE (9/11/2010): Re-posted via Amplify.com.
UPDATE (9/11/2007): All you folks looking for pictures of the dead bodies of 9/11 victims will be sadly disappointed. Now, unless you want to read something about fear and the nature of terrorists, I'd suggest that you move along. There's nothing to see here.
In Esquire , in a moving and draining article on the “Falling Man,” the subject of an iconic photo of one of those who jumped from the burning World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001, Tom Junod ponders the merits and morality of showing the more graphic images resulting from the attack.
Most decent people, understandably, don’t want to see such images, nor do they want them thrust before them constantly in the televised or print media. I’m one of them, to a point.
Junod recounts Peter Cheney’s attempts to identify the “Falling Man,” who is believed to have jumped from the restaurant Windows on the World in Tower One. The man was dark-skinned, thought to be a Puerto Rican, an Indian or a light-skinned black man and Junod tells of the anguish of several families who might have been that of the jumper. Of course, none of the families wants it to be their guy and some of Cheney’s bull-in-china-shop methods used to learn the man’s identity are disgusting.
But for all of the horror and grief at their loved ones’ deaths, for all the Christian anguish for the souls of their loved ones—would God view such an act as suicide?—I sensed a different kind of anguish. It emanates not only from the families, but from the media and, yes, indeed from all of us. No, not the fear of the pain the victims must have suffered, but the fear that the terrorists may inflict even more suffering.
Could fear be the root of exhortation to “move on?” Will “moving on” help us to forget the stuff of nightmares, the images that the American media (correctly) won’t show; the imaginings of burned bodies, crushed bodies, parts of bodies, bodies that are no longer bodies, but dust?
Terrorists commit their acts not for the benefit of the dead, but for those who remain alive. “Look at what we’ll do to you and yours,” they say, “if you don’t do what we want you to do.” They revel in our horror. They rejoice in the sorrow of the families who will never bury the atomized bodies of their loved ones. They say, “yeah, we did it and we’ll do it to you unless you….submit.”
Does anyone remember the story of Emmett Till? Several years before I was born, Till, fourteen-years-old, was the victim of another set of terrorists. This young black man, not knowing or not caring about the ways of the South of that period, was murdered for allegedly making an indecent remark to a white woman.
He disappeared and, days later, his body, beaten and shot, was found in a river. The men who were tried for his murder were acquitted.
Emmett’s murder wasn’t an isolated case of a man supposedly defending the honor of his wife. As we know, all over the South, black men were being murdered for “stepping out of their place,” whether they actually had stepped out of their “place” or not. Those who committed these crimes did so not only for “revenge” on the dead, but to send a message to and strike fear in the living.
That’s what made it terrorism. Sound familiar?
In 2001 (and 1968 and 1979 and 1983 and 1988 and 1993 and 1998 and 2003 and every year in between), the players are different from that of 1955, but the message is the same: do what we want or this will happen to you or to those whom you love. In this case, it is “worship in the way we worship; bow five times a day to Mecca or else.”
I mention the Till case not to compare the two sets of terrorists, per se, but to compare the dissimilar reactions of the victims’ loved ones.
Mamie Till, Emmett’s mother, had an open-casket funeral for her son. The photo (warning: it's graphic) of the body, which astoundingly for any time, much less 1955, was published in Jet Magazine. The first time I saw the horrifying photo of young Till's mutilated head, I threw up. The head--monstrous from the beating, the bullet and the decomposition--contrasted against the normalcy of the casket and the suit that Mrs. Till had picked out for the body. It gave the picture that much more ugliness: your worst nightmare in banal black and white.
But Mamie Till’s steely words about the open-casket decision were electrifying: “I want the world to see what they did to my son.”
Well, the “world” did see and, though there was much more sorrow to be had--as it is with any major upheaval of a society--things changed. Some of us even think that things have changed for the better…such home-grown types of terrorists still exist, but when caught, they usually sit on death row rather sit at home having beers with their friends. We can send our message as well.
Though we should acknowledge and, sometimes, accede to the wishes of the bereaved families as far as the pictures of the 9/11 carnage are concerned, they should feel no shame at how their family member met his/her fate. (And my personal opinion is that God is a far more understanding Guy than we often give Him credit for.)
Most of all, neither they, nor we, can afford to let the horror of that day plunge us into fear. Why not?
That is what they want us to feel; that is the terrorists’ main goal.
Fear will keep us from acting boldly and decisively against them.
Our unabated fear, taken to its ultimate conclusion, would have us bowing down five times a day toward Mecca. Not me, baby. And, I'm comfortable in the assumption that a lot of Indians, Israelis and Americans feel the same way.
Message to terrorists: You Failed.